Your iliopsoas muscle is one of the most vital muscles in your body.  Except, it’s probably one of the muscles in your body you know the least about and have the most trouble sensing.  To improve your relationship with your psoas, here’s an overview with some ideas of how to find and use your psoas in the pool.

Your psoas major originates on your T12/L5 spinal processes, runs across the front of your hip and inserts onto the lesser trochanter of your femur bone. Directly next to it is your psoas minor.  Your psoas minor also originates at T12/L5, runs against the psoas major, and inserts along the pectineal line of the pubis.  That’s assuming you have a psoas minor, as approximately one-third of people lack one or both of their psoas minor muscles.  Your iliacus muscle originates along the fan of your iliac fossa, runs down against the same bursa at the front of your hip as your psoas major, and also inserts on your lesser trochanter.  Those three muscles make up your iliopsoas.

Your iliopsoas complex fulfills four vital roles. It links the top of your body to the bottom, the back of your body to the front, and your axial skeleton (hips and spine) to your appendicular skeleton (limbs).  It supports your central torso, stabilizes your lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints, initiates core movements, and contributes to moving your hips and legs.  As a vital contributor to core movements, it laterally flexes your spine, elevates your torso when you’re supine, helps with spinal flexion, and sometimes assists in spinal rotation.  As your chief hip flexor, the psoas participates in hip adduction and when the hip is abducted, it helps to internally rotate it.

People who participate in sports with a lot of spinal flexion like cycling, overhead pulling like rock climbing, or dramatically one-sided movements like golf will often complain of trouble with their psoas.  Professionally, people who sit for their jobs, or carry a lot of weight on one side of their body, will show altered psoas function.

Also, the trauma you experience in your life can be held in your psoas.  Polyvagal theory, created by Dr. Stephen Porges, explains how your vagus nerve, engages your sympathetic nervous system to put you into fight, flight, freeze, or shutdown based on your experience of real or perceived dangers.  When you face major stress, and your body is being bathed in enough stress hormones to put you into freeze, or shutdown, as the major muscle involved in moving your leg forward, your psoas roots you to the spot.  With repeated stress, your body stores that trauma.  You need to engage your parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest phase, to get your psoas to release and relax again.

Read the full article on the AEA website.

If you enjoyed Psoas and Aquatic Exercise, read more articles I’ve written for AEA:

Adding aqua yoga to aqua aerobics

Deep water aerobics with aqua yoga

Page 19 of the Sep 2022 AKWA magazine showing the psoas and aquatic exercise article

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